How To Tame A Hamster
When you bring your hamster home allow them to settle into their cage for 2-3 days so they can get used to the new surroundings, smells and sounds. This is vital for your hamster as moving will cause great stress in your new pet and hamsters are prone to several severe stress-related health problems like Wet tail (see Problems and Illnesses) which can and often do lead to death. In order to prevent these illnesses the hamster must be kept as stress-free as possible.
Step 1. (Estimated time 1-3 weeks)
After your hamster has settled in for a few days you can begin taming. NEVER pick your hamster up in the first stages as you will only cause them a lot of stress and you may even end up getting bitten. Chose a natural, healthy treat like small seeds, mealworms, scrambled egg etc. and hold it in your fingers near to the entrance of your hamsters nest while they are awake. Be patient and wait for your hamster to respond and take the treat. If they are too nervous to take the treat leave it near the nest and move away.
Do this 2 or 3 times a day, everyday! Use different natural treats each time so your hamster doesn't get bored and soon your hamster will be happy to take treats from your fingers.
Step 2. (Estimated time 1-2 weeks)
Now that your hamster is taking treats from you its time to move on to "Palm Feeding". This time you will do the same as in step one only you will place the treat in the palm of your hand and wait patiently for your hamster to notice. They might not take the treat right away and lots of practice will be needed for some hamsters but within time your hamster will happily sit on your hand while eating the treat. If your hamster takes the treat and eats it somewhere else you are not ready for the next step. Its important that the hamster is climbing onto your hand happily before you move on.
Step 3. Part 1. (Estimated time 1.5 weeks)
You have two options at this point, the first is easier to do with dwarf hamsters and Chinese hamsters. The second is easier for Syrians.
Option 1. Once your hamster has happily been climbing on your hand for treats over several days you can begin lifting them off the ground once they are on your hand. Start with just a few inches off the ground in case they panic and want to jump! Then as they become more used to the movement you can lift them higher and higher until you have them at a level you are comfortable with.
(Skip option 2 and move on to the next paragraph)
Option 2. Using a small box or tube coax your hamster inside with treats and then lift them gently of the ground just a little. Allow them to get used to the feeling of being lifted by lifting them slowly up and down getting a little higher each time. Place a hand flat at either end of the tube and wait until your hamster comes out (you may want to use treats to encourage them!). When your hamster is out remove the tube and hold them carefully in your hand.
Step 3. Part 2. (Estimated time 1+ weeks)
Now that you are holding your hamster you can allow them to walk across you by placing your hands one-besides the other making a never ending path. Your hamster will walk across your hands and braver hamsters may even walk up your arms and over your body. This step can be practiced throughout the hamsters life as your hamster will enjoy doing this for a game. Some hamsters may be happy enough to settle down and sit or even sleep in your hands but most will prefer to keep moving!
Step 4. (Estimated time 1 week)
You could do this before step 3 or after - it really doesn't make a difference! This step will teach you how to get your hamster used to being stroked and touched without flinching or nipping.
While your hamster is inside a traveller or small box use a brush (old toothbrush or hamster brush) to gently stroke different parts of their body. A hamster who hasn't been stroked before may flinch but they will soon get used to the feeling. Once your feel your hamster is comfortable then you can begin stroking them with your finger or hand without the risk of being bitten!
Step 5. (Estimated time 1+ weeks)
This step will teach you how to pick up your hamster by hand and get your hamster used to being lifted.
While your hamster is in a travel box or on your lap, take your right hand and wrap it around the hamsters body ensuring that your fingers are supporting the belly. Lift your hamster a few inches from the ground, then take your left hand and cup it underneath their bottom for extra support. You can now lift and carry your hamster around though I recommend practicing a few times over a box or carpeted floor first in case your hamster wriggles free and falls.
When you and your hamster are confident you can start carrying your hamster around in this way.
Step 6. (Estimated time 1+ weeks)
Your hamster is going to need home health checks regularly and part of that includes turning your hamster over to examine their stomach but as prey animals hamsters are not going to let you turn them over easily. To practice this you need to start in a similar way to Step 5 by holding your hamster low over a box. Take your right hand and cup it around the hamsters body so that your fingers support the belly. Place your index finger gently over the back of the hamsters head for extra support.
Slowly turn your hamster over to reveal their belly and raise your fingers so you can examine it. Your hamster is likely going to kick and wriggle, when they do slowly turn them back over and set them down on the ground. Let them rest for a moment and then try again.
I would only recommend practicing this step for a few minutes a day as it will stress your hamster out if you practice for too long.
Not all hamsters will master this step but its important that you as the owner at least learns to do it properly in order to perform a full health examination for your hamster and spot any problems early on.
Once your hamster is happy with steps 1-5 it is considered tame. Every hamster has a different definition of the word tame, for some it means not running away terrified at the sight of you, for others it means snuggling in for a cuddle with their owner. Just remember to practice, practice, practice and you will soon have a hamster you can enjoy handling.